Bakers continue to be challenged by consumer demands for more healthful products that retain the quality, flavor and texture of their old world counterparts. Consumers are demanding reductions in trans fats, the inclusion of whole grains, and fewer additives and preservatives in their bakery products.
In addition to “natural” requirements, the consumer's desire to have cleaner labels provides both manufacturers and ingredient suppliers with challenges and opportunities to bring new products to the market.
Last year, 33 percent of new products launched in the United States were marketed as “natural,” according to statistics from Danisco, New Century, Kan. And “natural” claims on bread products doubled from 2006 to 2007, says Danisco's Linda Dunning, technical applications director.
In addition, says Pierre Tossut, Group R&D leader for Puratos, Belgium, consumers want quality, taste, a pleasurable eating experience, visual gratification and products that provide good health and convenience in baked products that can be eaten at a variety of occasions.
Natural, more healthful, convenient, visually gratifying — all of these criteria place a big demand on bakers, who also must maintain efficiencies, production quotas and profitability.
Luckily, ingredient suppliers realize these demands and are hard at work developing solutions that can help bakers improve the nutrition of their products while maintaining optimal economic benefits for bakers.
If there is one operative word for the latest in bakery ingredients, it's enzymes. These powerful biomolecules are generally protein derivatives developed through fermentation and act as catalysts in chemical reactions. Newer enzymes are more specialized than their older cousins in both action and effect by acting more specifically to improve loaf volume, crumb structure, machineability, shelf life and eating quality often without adding excessive expense to the finished product. Dosage is always important, with more not necessarily being better. Microdispensing equipment can help prevent over-weighing mistakes.
New enzyme technology has developed lipase and xylanase enzymes that provide dough strength by solubilizing non-starch polysaccharides, enabling them to absorb the precise amount of water for hydration, allowing for better structure. This is especially important for high fiber and ancient grain breads, which can be hard to handle.
Ingredient manufacturers are hard at work developing systems that will improve the condition of artisan doughs, while providing that all-important clean label. Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, Kan., has a line of products designed for cleaner label applications that artisan bakers are finding to be quite versatile. This line of products can be used to make bagels, English muffins, panini and multi-grain, cracked wheat and rye breads with great success.
“A versatile multi-purpose enzyme/ascorbic acid blend from Caravan is used to replace chemical oxidation, dough conditioners/emulsifiers, chemical reducing agents and also contains crumb softening enzymes for extended shelf life,” says Ron Zelch, CMB, product knowledge and training manager, Product Development Center, Caravan Ingredients. In addition, this enzyme/ascorbic acid blend also is recommended for frozen dough production, providing great frozen dough storage shelf life. Caravan also offers an organic certified version. These ingredients are finding good success in all types of bread and roll production.
Emulsifiers and other dough improvers
Emulsifiers may be used in conjunction with enzymes, providing a cost benefit for the baker, but most emulsifiers generally do not come under the “natural” labeling claim. The all-natural label can be used when using solely enzymes as dough conditioners, or when lecithin is the emulsifier of choice.
Lecithin, while not as effective as chemical emulsifiers, can be used to achieve the desired clean label. It is used to emulsify fats and helps develop a more consistent crumb and retain moisture. Liquid lecithin is more difficult to use than dry.
Other ingredients that can improve dough conditions are hydrocolloids and gums, such as carrageenan, for moisture control and to extend shelf life in frozen doughs.
The addition of gluten, especially in artisan and ancient grain breads improves elasticity. Ascorbic acid also makes doughs more elastic and less extensible while providing a more acidic environment for an improvement of the action of yeast.
Even spices, such as powdered ginger, can be added to doughs for the improvement of yeast growth. The amounts added to a formula need not be great. In fact the flavor of the spice can be undetectable in taste tests, yet can provide significant improvement in yeast performance.
Increasingly, restaurants from quick-serve to sit down are incorporating flat breads into their repertoire. These functional breads provide an interesting ethnic flair to wraps and are perfect for the on-the-go consumer who favors dashboard dining to the knife and fork scene.
“People are eating differently nowadays,” Dunning says, and flat breads are a big part of the trend toward more innovative food choices. Whether it's tortillas, pitas, naan or fry bread, flat breads have little or no leavening and are made to fold around their fillings optimally without cracking, breaking or splitting. This is easier said than done. With their sometimes testy ingredients, such as masa or whole grains, or even non — wheat ingredients, such as rice flour, flat breads can be a challenge for the baker.
Enzymes and emulsifiers can be added to a mix to give flexibility and softness to the bread. Danisco's speciality ingredients, including distilled monoglycerides and its unique bakery enzyme with antistaling properties, can add processing improvements, dough strength and softness to breads and buns, and flexibility, in the case of flat bread formulations.
Managing the bottom line
Face it. With all of the advancements in ingredient technology focused on giving consumers what they want, the fact remains that the bakery business functions on small margins and tight budgets. While consumers may be asking for cleaner labels and more natural ingredients, the costs may be too great, both for the manufacturer and the consumer.
Less expensive, more traditional dough conditioners, such as chemical emulsifiers and stabilizers, may be more efficient in the long run. Danisco's Dunning remarks that while premium natural food stores and specialty shops may be able to demand higher prices for natural, clean label bakery items, mainstream grocers may find it difficult to promote and sell these premium products. Bakers must maintain their vigilance in ensuring the profitability of the operation as well as giving the consumer what they truly want, and are willing to pay for.
Ingredients that provide quality, taste and a pleasurable eating experience to the average consumer, and that are affordable and convenient to the baker are ingredients whose time has come.